Historical Setting

A contemporary conversation regarding the role of women in technology cannot ignore the long history and context that exists here. These concerns date back at least decades, and a look at the historical record demonstrates that we really do need to take action and advocacy seriously. These issues do not fix themselves, and inaction could lead to a perpetuation or even exacerbation of current issues.

Credit Stealing

Perhaps the most egregious historical example is that of credit stealing. A look through history reveals multiple instances in which important female scientists were pushed aside in favor of male counterparts. For example, Rosalind Crick, Jean Bartik, Betty Holberton, Kay McNulty, and other female scientists and engineers were excluded from news interviews and publicity, and they were ignored by colleagues despite their groundbreaking work in biology and computer engineering. See Walter Isaacson’s The Women of ENIAC for more info.

Discrimination in Higher Education

Key engineering departments like MIT and Caltech only began admitting female undergraduates in the post-WWII period, with early graduates facing institutional discrimination as well as the ire of alumni. One Georgia Tech alumnus wrote that “"I didn’t want to see...Tech [become] a campus full of ‘debutantes’ looking for a husband. I still feel very strongly that too many girls at Tech will all but destroy the seriousness of purpose in the lives of many young men at school."

Discrimination in Careers

Many have historically believed women to be unsuitable for engineering-related careers. Eric Walker, the Engineering Dean at Penn State, wrote that: "[t]he most evident ambition of many women is to get married and raise a family...few companies are willing to risk $10,000 on a beautiful blonde engineer, no matter how good she may be at math"